Bishop Maximus, the Dean of Latin America and the Caribbean, and his retinue have returned from a fruitful journey to our churches and schools in Haiti. As you may be aware, this has been a difficult year in Haiti due to political unrest. During the second half of 2019 the country was basically grid-locked by rioting, protests, and violence. Most of the schools in the country were closed. Many of the hospitals were closed and the level of serious malnutrition and starvation was a real element of daily life for 40% of Haiti’s population of 12 million people. Since the end of the Nativity Fast, the country has enjoyed some modicum of peace and we were able to begin our journey for the purpose of ordaining priests and receiving a new parish into the GOC. Our first stop was St. Augustine’s Church in the small seaside village of Cyvadier. The Bishop was greeted with the sweet song of children and generous gifts of fruit! On Sunday, the director of St. Augustine School, Nicholas, was ordained to the office of Deacon. On St. Basil’s day he was made a priest and served his first Divine Liturgy. We were able to attend Vespers and Matins each day and we joined our Haitian faithful for Divine Liturgy on six occasions during our stay. On the Forefeast of Theophany, St. Augustine Church was also blessed by the ordination of Fr. Deacon Luke, a faithful servant of the Orthodox Christians in the south of Haiti. Bishop Maximus
was able to begin clergy training courses and we were able to help with the design of both the church and the school. We have a clinic at the school dedicated to St. Raphael and were able to see over 160 patients during our stay in Cyvadier.
One of the most moving incidents happened at the first Divine Liturgy (the first Sunday we were there), as Bishop Maximus blessed the people, the howls of the demonic foe flattened two young women to the ground amongst much thrashing, screaming, and writhing. This was a shocking moment that made everyone more aware of the apostolic mission in front of us. It is our hope to continue to support these stalwart and faithful Orthodox Christians, particularly now since they have been given the gift of a priest and a deacon so that they can begin living a liturgical life centered around the Divine Mysteries of Christ.
We then visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, and St. Dorothy Orthodox Church. Fr. Ambrose has been the rector there for many years. The faithful are a vibrant group of dedicated Orthodox Christians. We were able to spend Theophany with Fr Ambrose and his parishioners as well as tour the elementary school that is next to the church. This is the smallest of our parishes and the smallest of our schools and is in need of your prayers and support.
The next day we journeyed to our new parish outside of a small village called Mayisad. They have been busily working on constructing a new church and we were able to serve Vespers under a structure made of freshly hewn wood, a new tin roof, a dirt floor, a makeshift iconostasis and altar with a crowd of the faithful of all ages in the dark, dark night of the Haitian countryside. The following morning, we were met by over 300 Orthodox Christians and friends for the ordination of the former deacon and now priest, Fr. Abramios.
The Haitian Orthodox are begging to live a Liturgical Life in the Orthodox Church. They are spiritual strivers used to daily adversities but blessed with holy joy. We are beginning to prepare small prayer books in both French and Haitian Creole for the faithful. Bishop Maximus is in constant contact with them for clergy training. We ask that you please not forget this growing Haitian vineyard in your prayers. I thank you heartily and wish you a blessed fast.
Sincerely In Christ,
Lazarus Gehring, M.D.